Mea Culpa Day-After-a-Monday That-Was-A-Holiday

Jan. 22, 2008
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Yesterday, The Cleveland Plain Dealer ran the rare apology for not using a racial epithet. On Martin Luther King Day.


Phillip Morris, whose parents should have known better before naming him, wrote a column about his discomfort hearing a specific racial slur inadvertently used by a bartender quoting the movie Pulp Fiction. Why, Morris wondered, did he cheer when a black actor used the word in the movie and cringe when a white bartender merely recounted the same line, one written by notably white guy, Quentin Tarantino?

Which epithet was it? Who knows? After much argument, The Cleveland Plain Dealer edited it out of the column. They went with the construct “n-r.” I’m guessing it wasn’t ”nectar.”

There’s an easy answer to Morris’ question. White people using ethnic slurs under any circumstance reference the pain the slurs once caused, just as bartenders quoting Pulp Fiction reference the enjoyment that the movie once caused. Tarantino had a level of artistic irony. Bartender? Not so much.

There’s sometimes an easy answer to the “should you use a racial epithet in a news story”
thing. Certainly, it makes sense in a news story about the horror of the word. The Cleveland Plain Dealer knows this. Gawker notes that, given the same controversy, they’ve chosen to gotheotherway.

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